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dmi:Design Value Award Winner




Safety Net: A Peace-of-Mind Fund

Design Concepts +SafetyNet


There is an “arms race” in the insurance industry as companies move away from employer-provided insurance to individual products. CUNA Mutual Financial Group (CMFG), a mutual insurance company, knew that it needed to find new business models and test new lean/agile ways of bringing direct-to-consumer products to market to position itself for the future.

They saw an opportunity to create a ‘safety-net’ product for working class people worried about the ability to pay off their bills should they lose their job, get sick, or become injured. CMFG went to Design Concepts, a product design and strategic innovation consultancy, to test the concept and to get guidance on using the Lean Startup process for product development.

The Design Concepts team started by brainstorming different iterations of the core product. They created storyboards to articulate the value proposition and process from the consumer’s point of view. Then they then conducted over 100 individual interviews with consumers in three cities. Based on the research, Design Concepts provided recommendations on how to move forward, including messaging and positioning guidance, and UX design strategy. They embedded with the Safety Net team, helping plan experiments and research. They conducted a service design workshop to help CMFG make decisions and create a service design map that became the basis for ongoing conversation about the customer experience. And finally, they created tools and templates to help CMFG hold more effective meetings and track each aspect of the project through a “build, measure, learn” loop.

A decade after the start of the Great Depression, many Americans still live on the edge of financial insolvency. Approximately 40 percent couldn’t come up with $400 cash in an emergency. Safety Net has already helped consumers remain solvent. Safety Net launched in late 2016 in two states. Membership has grown 30 percent month over month. CFMG is looking to expand their product offerings to other areas of financial security and launch in additional states.‬

This project opened up a new way of developing products for the organization. CMFG treated Safety Net and its team as an internal startup and as a result of the project, the ‘startup’ is still funded and growing. CMFG has gotten more comfortable with Design Thinking and Lean and Agile processes and will apply these learnings to future product development projects.

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